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Russian Woman Charged With Conspiracy To Meddle In Midterm Elections

Lehtikuva/Jussi Nukari via REUTERS/File Photo

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The Justice Department charged a Russian woman on Friday with conspiring to influence the 2018 election through social media posts aimed at sowing discord ahead of the midterms.

Elena Alekaseevna Khusyaynova, 44, allegedly works for Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman who is known as “Putin’s chef” because of his close ties to Russia’s president.

Prigozhin was indicted along with 12 other Russian nationals in the special counsel’s investigation on Feb. 16. He stands accused of overseeing a group of companies that meddled in the 2016 campaign by creating fake online personas and astroturf campaigns on social media.

Prosecutors allege that Khusyaynova controlled the finances of “Project Lakhta,” the name of an influence campaign that was intended “to sow discord in the U.S. political system.” Internal documents show that “Project Lakhta” operatives spoke of waging “information warfare against the United States,” the Justice Department complaint says.

The project allegedly disseminated misinformation online about politically divisive issues, including the NFL national anthem debate, the Confederate flag and immigration. (RELATED: Mueller Indicts 13 Russian Nationals Involved In Election Interference)

It also targeted politicians from both sides of the political aisle, including late Arizona Sen. John McCain, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and former President Barack Obama.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC155A6A5990

Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“The conspirators’ alleged activities did not exclusively adopt one ideological view; they wrote on topics from varied and sometimes opposing perspectives,” prosecutors said.

“Members of the conspiracy were directed, among other things, to create ‘political intensity through supporting radical groups’ and to ‘aggravate the conflict between minorities and the rest of the population.'”

The charges against Khusyaynova are the first for activities related to the 2018 election. They were announced just after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement that Russia, China and other foreign governments, including Iran, have operations targeting the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, recently said that Russia’s efforts ahead of the 2018 elections pale in comparison to their activities in 2016.

“Relative to what we have seen for the midterm elections, it is not the type of robust campaign that we assessed in the 2016 election. We know that through decades Russia has tried to use its propaganda and methods to sew discord in America,” Coats told The Daily Caller during a press briefing on Aug. 2. (RELATED: DNI: 2018 Russian Efforts Not At Level Of 2016, Not Aimed At One Party)

“They stepped up their game big time in 2016. We have not seen that kind of robust effort from them so far.”

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